Monday, September 10, 2007

Straight men and Patriarchy

I totally agree with William Leap. This is very good and makes total sense to me as I have worked with these men professionally for 23 years. I would meet these men as a single gay man during sexual hookups. Gay men cannot deny men like Craig who are straight but act gay exist as they have all been with one at one time or another.

For men, 'straight' label is inflexible
BY J. PEDER ZANE, The News & Observer

Consider this: Almost half of all men who have sex with other men in public bathrooms consider themselves straight, according to William Leap, a professor of anthropology at American University, who has studied this behavior since the early 1990s.

"They insist, 'I'm not gay, I'm not homosexual, I'm straight,' " Leap told me. "The general description for these guys is they are married and they often talk about these encounters as recreational -- fun, excitement, a break from the long workday."

One man told Leap that the encounters offered "dangerous excitement" in contrast to his emotionally dull second marriage. Another man said he would stop off at a known cruising spot after work, have sex, then pick up a quart of milk before returning home to his wife and kids. "It was almost like a scheduled activity he had in his day planner," Leap said.

A complex continuum

Leap, who edited the essay collection "Public Sex, Gay Space," agreed that most people would conclude these men are gay -- a view he described as overly simplistic. For starters, he said, that judgment defines these men by one aspect of their behavior, discounting, for example, their lives with their wives. It also presumes that society's general assumptions about how straight men should act are more accurate than their own conceptions of themselves as heterosexuals. Finally, Leap said, it defines homosexuality exclusively in terms of sex.

"Being gay is not just a sexual position," he said. "It also involves a self-acceptance and a public declaration, a willingness to to say 'I am gay' and to make that clear to one's self. Perhaps these men are in denial, but if we just write them off as closeted or repressed, we limit our understanding of what straightness might entail."

I wasn't completely convinced. The taboos on homosexual activity are so strong that, it seems, only powerful urges could impel men to cross that line. At heart, it must be something they feel they must do to satisfy a fundamental need.

The issue, Leap countered, is not whether these men are gay but the constricted ways American society views straight male behavior. The rest of the population -- women and gay men -- are not bound by the one drop rule.

Few would suggest, for example, that a self-identified gay man who sleeps with women on occasion is secretly straight. Or consider the images of young women making out with each other in the "Girls Gone Wild" videos. I don't know anybody who immediately concludes that they are lesbians. Show people videos of men kissing, and people will instantly say they are gay.


Steve Boese said...

Gay men [...] have all been with one at one time or another.

I started to say I was the exception to this rule, because among the guys I've met, the only one who came close was generally closeted about being bi, but freely admitted it to a broad circle of gay friends.

But, digging deeper, I remember Tim and Tommy. Each of them was a neighbor, but years apart and in different states. Both were well known as characters in the neighborhood, and known for being creative panhandlers. And both guys let me know that they were available to play sexually -- especially if I had beer to share -- as long as I promised never to mention it to the other neighbors.

The similarities between them struck me. I often don't trip people's gaydar, but T&T both read me before I was out to other neighbors. Both of them had long histories in the neighborhood including extended family members close by. The contrast between their openness to be seen hanging out with me (the gay guy on the block) and their insistence that everybody in the neighborhood and their families believed they were ever-straight intrigued me.

My sense of each of them as a complex, multi-layered person grew as I got to know them better. I kept looking for signs that Tim and Tommy were bisexual or gay, but closeted, but didn't see them.

Being sexual with a guy, for them, was more about sport than intimacy. It could be fun, it could be extreme, it could be physically intense, it could be competitive, it might be measured, weighed, and compared to being sexual with a woman.

But the bottom line was that, like being a professional athlete, they could visualize retiring from it. And, while some former pro athletes embed themselves in their industry as perpetual fans or commentators, it was hard for me to picture their interest continuing another decade or two.

It was a game they could play. Apparently, they were physically adept at it. Being stealth in a chess match while some of their closest family members and friends despised chess increased the thrill factor for them.

Tim and Tommy were the antithesis of Larry Craig in sophistication, education, and public respect. And yet, they both speak to me as powerful anecdotes. Humanity is seldom confined by tidy boxes and hard-edged categories.

Taconic said...

Zane and Leap do o.k. in identifying some of what goes on. Unfortunately they get hung up on the labels.

Yet too often, writers and researchers take the simplistic easy-way-out of assigning or demanding subjects to categorize themselves. And society, too, works on us to want to pigeon-hole us to these lables and the "lifestyles" that are thereby assumed. That societal imperative is often damaging as we try to fit ourselves to the inclusiveness and exclusiveness of some definition.

As a long term member of the HOW group (which this blog featured on 9/13) and BMMA and several other groups for gay, bi, and married men. I have witnessed the destructive power of labels.

The only valid use of the Bi, St8, and Gay labels is on diagrams in research papers; never on people.

Indeed, we are who we are; time and maturity and situation change us. Freud gave us a linear continuum -- a line made of infinite points. Fritz Klein gave us a multi-dimensional grid. We are all somewhere in that five-dimensional space it defines. Tomorrow I won't be at quite the same point on that line or in that space as I am today.

Anonymous said...

I am a heterosexual married female and like male gay porn and lesbian gay porn ...its the only this i orgasm to...i don't have a history of childhood sexual abuse so your wrong on the one joe...i think its the fact the as a virgin growing up...penetration is a painful matter (tampons n such), and associating pain with a penetrating penis can be traumatic for a least girls always seemed to cry out in the porno lesbians seemed much more sensual..and since i'm a fan of oral sex...homosexuals seem to go to places hetero's haven't gone before...and to this day...i never had a homosexual exprience (never kissed a girl even) and i choose to keep it that way...

Anonymous said...

Ok, I am a straight woman and have no interest in girls at all. I was watching netflix and a movie had two men kissing and I got so turned on. I decided to watch other movies to see if it was just a fluke and it was not. I felt a feeling like I do when I kiss or become intamite with my husband. I think fantasising that I am a man and pretending that I am the man in the video made me more arroused. I put myself in a place where I was a man in my mind doing things to a man. I am still a little confused why I feel this way.

Anonymous said...

The only thing I really agree with in this article is the last line about hurting people. I'm scared to tell most people that I regularly watch gay porn (and have since just after the time I started watching porn).

What I disagree with is that gay porn is somehow different to straight, lesbian, or other types of porn. There are still videos I have seen where the guy is OBVIOUSLY watching porn off-screen to keep it up (and sometimes I can hear that it's a woman in the video he's watching). Straight men do gay porn to make money and it is just as fake as the straight stuff can be.

Honestly, I watch ALL kinds of porn, mostly gay, but either way, I'm always on the look out for the most realistic and passionate scenes I can find. Good looking actors help too.